Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Feedback Request

The author of the book most recently featured here would like your feedback on this revision:

Indy Ramsay has studied and trained her entire teenage life for the day she would be recruited to the Reverend Council-the elite corps that runs the Aet-El Empire, the Ever Empire.

Instead, it is her grandfather, Eldritch Ramsay, who is chosen and then promptly sent away on a mission of the utmost importance, leaving behind a shattered and dejected Indy.

The very next day, the Council is under siege from an unknown enemy; the annual market has been burnt to cinders, the Parliament stands destroyed in an earthquake, and Eldritch returns home to find his entire family murdered, all except his grandson. [And his granddaughter.] [Apparently when they sent Eldritch away on an important mission they didn't send him far. He's back already. What form of transportation did he use?] [Not sure why I'm bothering to suggest deleting certain phrases when my  same suggestions on an earlier version have been ignored.]

He will get his grandson back, he is told, [By whom?] if he betrays the Empire. [We just murdered your entire family except your grandson, but we won't murder him if you betray millions. You can trust us.] A simple act. All he has to do is use his newfound power and status to find a man, the greatest man the Empire has ever known-someone who hasn't been seen in the Empire for two centuries. [I got some bad news: the guy's been dead for 150 years.] [Was that sarcasm, calling this "a simple act"?] Eldritch knows that finding this man will bring ruin to the Empire; an omniscient god told him so only yesterday. [Being omniscient means knowing all; it doesn't mean always telling the truth.]

He wants to not care. Millions of lives weighed against his grandson's . . . He is not going to let his grandson die. [Millions of other people's grandchildren or my grandchild . . . Hmm, not as difficult a decision as I would have thought.] The Empire has heroes and patriots and deities enough. Let them save whoever they can.

Unbeknownst to him, Indy is still alive. Targeted for assassination as the last of Eldritch's bloodline, [Isn't his grandson also part of his bloodline?] she manages to learn the truth of the enemy's plan for the Empire and Eldritch.

Now, as riots rage throughout the city and the enemy brings its true might to bear upon the Empire, Indy will prove herself worthy of the Empire and the validation she was denied. She will find and stop Eldritch-[Finding Eldritch will be the hard part. Where do you look for a man who's off looking for a man who hasn't been seen for two centuries?] she will save the Empire at any cost.

Then what if the cost be Eldritch himself? [All the better, since there'll be a new opening on the Council.]


Hard to believe there's an enemy powerful enough to threaten the Empire, and they don't even know who the enemy is. Why isn't the identity of the enemy known?

You'd think with the enemy bringing their true might to bear upon you, you'd either be fighting or fleeing, not rioting.

Finding a man who hasn't been seen for two centuries seems like a nutty demand for your enemy to make. It's like an unknown person kidnaps the U.S. Secretary of State's grandchild and tells the Secretary, "You'll never see the kid again unless you find James Madison." Which would be bad enough, but yesterday God told you the U.S. would come to ruin and millions would die if you ever found James Madison.

I think the query should focus on Indy. How she steps up when the enemy attacks and Eldritch is off searching Australia for the 250-year-old great man. 


Anonymous said...

On the plus side, this is a more thorough view of the story set-up. Though, you don't need all the details you've included, just the ones important for understanding the story. EE's red marks mean you can leave that part off.

On the minus side, my only knowledge of how finding X will destroy the empire is you saying Trust Me.... If you're going to include it, you need to present the information so that I can look at it and see how important it is for myself.

We now have a vague sense of what people's plans are and what's getting in their way. We're still missing what they plan on doing about that.

I would think that finding the ones responsible for murdering the family (Indy knows they've been murdered, right?) and holding the grandson (how does he know the kid's still alive?) hostage would be easier, likelier to succeed, and a more obvious course of action.

I;m assuming the ones trying to kill Indy are the ones who killed the rest of her family? If she knows the truth, why doesn't she diffuse the plans by saving the grandson (her brother/cousin)?

InkAndPixelClub said...

The first part works pretty well. It could be a single paragraph instead of two standalone sentences, but I get that you're trying to emphasize the contrast between Indy's expectations and what actually happens. You might want to break the second sentence into two, as it's a lot of info for one. If you explain how Eldritch is feeling as well as how Indy is crushed by this turn of events, it might strengthen the idea that they're co-protagonists.

The next three paragraphs could probably be compressed down to one, maybe two. All we really need from the first one is the kidnapped grandson. The seemingly unrelated attacks on the empire just leave me wondering why all of this is happening now as opposed to at any other time. The murdered family is just confusing. I initially thought the grandson was still there and was the only one left alive. Not only is he actually missing due to being abducted, but Indy's actually missing too. Eldritch just failed to notice her absence for some reason. And why would the unknown enemy kill everyone except Eldritch's grandson instead of taking them all hostage and killing the, off one by one of Eldritch doesn't cooperate?

If there are going to be omniscient gods in your story, it might be better to introduce them sooner. Maybe when Eldritch gets drafted into the Reverend Council, you can mention that he'll be spending his days conversing with gods and doing whatever else members of the Reverend Council do while Indy's stuck doing whatever it is that regular citizens of the Empire do.

Any reason this omniscient god couldn't have told Eldritch to go home and hide his family before they got murdered? Any reason it can't tell the Reverend Council who the unknown enemy is and where their base of operations is at?

Pare this section down to the basics: Eldritch finds out that his grandson has been abducted. To get the grandson back safely, Eldritch needs to find a legendary hero of the Empire. (Why is Eldritch uniquely qualified to do this?) Then maybe save the why this is going to be bad for when we get back to Indy.

How did Indy escape being killed with the rest of her family? This is where you could potentially show Indy as an active and capable protagonist, maybe hint at what skills she has and what she might be doing in the rest of the story. Not something you want to gloss over.

Being targeted for death as the last of Eldritch's bloodline (why is destroying Eldritch's bloodline important?) has no connection to Indy discovering the enemy's plans. These she should be two separate sentences, followed by one that explains what those plans are. All this mystery about who the enemy is and what the plan to bring down the Empire is doesn't help you. If you don't get specific about these things and what Indy did to uncover the enemy plot, we won't understand why she has no choice but to stop Eldritch instead of fighting the enemy or rescuing her brother or cousin.

"Then what if the cost be Eldritch himself?" You've had some version of this sentence in a few drafts. I'm not sure why you're using this archaic wording. The idea that Indy might have to choose between saving the Empire and killing her own grandfather is solid and makes a nice parallel to Eldritch choosing to betray the Empire to save his grandson. But if we don't understand the emotional relationship between Indy and Eldritch, it doesn't mean much. If this is a hard choice because Indy really loves Eldritch, that needs to be in the query.

Mister Furkles said...

There are two stories here: Eldritch and Indy. That's fine for a novel but not so good for a query. Try to focus on just one and only mention the other if necessary to serve that one.

Query_Writer said...

Hi Evil Editor

Consider me duly chastised as regards the red sections.It's just that I thought I could make them work in this form of the query.

I believe you want me to not mention the two names for the Empire as you pointed out in the previous revision? It's just that I feel cutting out the entire sentence would only elicit confusion as to what the Reverend Council is. Regarding the second sentence, I wanted to give a sense of what the Council being under siege is- a series of events of escalating importance i.e. Market, parliament, then Eldritch's family. I was asked to clarify in the previous revision that the Council being under siege is related to the 3 acts, so I put it in. I understand you feel it serves no purpuse in the query

[Millions of other people's grandchildren or my grandchild . . . Hmm, not as difficult a decision as I would have thought.] I would think that when you know that the number is actually in millions, it would give an actual person pause, no matter how much he loves his grandson.

The bloodline thing- second-last doesn't quite have the same ring to it. Honestly, I would think it conveys the sense of what I want it to convey, but technically, yes, she wouldn't be the last of Eldritch's bloodline. Should I edit it to technical correctness? I guess I should put it entirely differently.

The James Madison analogy is completely apt and yes it is nutty (which is supposed to be intriguing), but think of the man Eldritch's being asked to find as a christ-like figure, so Eldritch knows that the man's not subject to the usual rules that govern normal guys.He's going to be around somewhere.I was trying to make what Eldritch needs to do sound enticing-find a man who will bring ruin to the EMpire plus he's a legendary warrior for the good side plus he hasn't been seen for 200 years. I guess it wasn't all that enticing.

The identity of the enemy not being known- well, if a villain doesn't stop to monologue or tell you why he's attacking you, and you don't know who these guys are, well then, you are pretty much in the dark. Think of it as a society of assassins who don't bother to explain themselves or give themselves code names. Their identity is revealed during the course of the novel, of course.I guess I should rethink having them be unknown in the query?

As for the archaic language. I've read that a query should give an idea of the tone of the book. I am humbly trying to project the feel of the novel in the query through word choices. So there is some archaic-ness to the query, which is reflective of the story. I don't think a YA style sassy query would be good for my book.

The rioting is being done by the citizens, who are being incited by the enemy as a means to strike against the Empire(which is to say the political structure of the Empire)

"If this is a hard choice because Indy really loves Eldritch, that needs to be in the query." Isn't this sorta implied. Grandfather and gdaughter. Bound to be love there. Do I have to specifically show it?

Thanks for listening, and for your feedback(In that, I'm including the commenters as well, particularly InkAndPixelClub). I'll have a revision up asap.

Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Including both names of the empire takes up space. You don't have that much space.

The things that need to be in the query are the ones that we will see having a direct impact on the choices being made by the character(s) you focus on. Does burning the marketplace directly have an impact on Eldritch finding X or Indy stopping him? If so, show how, if not, don't include it.

The thing about large numbers like millions is that people have a difficult time grasping what they mean. It's why news sources frequently say things like "As many people as would fill the superdome 13 times." It's a theoretical enough concept that there are people who wouldn't blink twice to kill millions, especially if we're talking about .000000003% of the population of the empire. For the number to mean something, I think we need more context.

Mystery in queries doesn't give a good perspective on the stakes, which is what the agent needs to know. Right now X is a McGuffin. You say it's important, but we don't see how.

Yes, you need to tell the agent who your villain is and what their plan/goal is. That's also part of the stakes.

Considering the number of stories out there where children and parents hate each other, you do need to specify how much grandfather & granddaughter care about each other. The agent isn't going to take things for granted.

Hope this helps.